Actually, this is not the first time that a Gnostic text has reminded of the worship experience of some of our contemporaries. I have remarked in the past that the Hymn of Jesus from the Acts of John readily brings to mind a hymn often sung in mainline Protestant (and, I understand, even Roman Catholic) settings: Sydney Carter’s Lord of the Dance. The difference, of course, is that Carter’s galling little piece has a “Just Jack!” quality to it that is altogether absent from the ancient Gnostic text:
April DeConick’s “Apocryphote of the Day” for Wednesday, her own rendering of a Baptismal hymn found in the Gnostic Holy Book of the Invisible Spirit (also known as The Gospel of the Egyptians), struck me as eerily reminiscent of the type of song usually heard in “contemporary” Evangelical worship. Go give it a look; hers is a really vibrant rendering of this most interesting selection.Now, I don’t point out this uncanny similarity because I wish to suggest that Evangelical worship of the “ooh, aah, Jesus” variety is akin to at least one strand of ancient Gnostic worship (though I do perversely relish that thought), but because one of DeConick’s objectives in posting her daily “Aporcryphote” is to remind us “that the people who wrote the literature that we call ‘apocryphal’ or ‘parabiblical’, were ‘living’ their religion”—that is, that they engaged in community and private worship, sought to live piously, and so on. That her lucidly translated selection immediately resonated in my mind with the worship experience of people I know means that, at least with respect to me, her project found immediate success. Kudos to April DeConick for this thoughtful new series!